[vc_row row_height_percent=”0″ overlay_alpha=”50″ gutter_size=”3″ shift_y=”0″][vc_column][vc_column_text]In this article, Part 3 of a four-part series, we report on technology trends affecting business owners.

In 2018, the promise of many emerging technologies will be unleashed. To some extent, science fiction will become reality.

There are about 7.5 billion people in the world, and half have access to the internet. Two-thirds of the world’s population have a cell phone. The next wave of technologies will reach every corner of the globe, and provide us with possibilities we only dreamed about four or five years ago.

Key trends to watch in 2018 and beyond:

Machine learning — a mash up of the Internet of Things (IoT), Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), Mixed Reality (MR) and cloud/edge computing will dominate technology. An alarming trend is becoming more evident. Technology, once the bastion of small companies and startups, is being overrun by big tech companies who are helping seed new technologies and then buying up anyone who gets in their way. It is estimated that Artificial Intelligence (AI) alone will add a whopping $16 trillion in GDP the U.S. economy by 2030.

Business applications for AR will burst onto the scene. AR, which melds together the digital and physical worlds, provides powerful animations and data points that overlay that which we can see. As most of us are visual learners, AR offers us the ability to process information much faster. My favorite example of AR is the virtual yellow first-down marker on a football field. By seeing the line beamed on our television screen (2D), we instantly know if the ball carrier earned a first down.

For businesses, the biggest immediate opportunity is training, as AR will be used in simulators for pilots and astronauts, for machinists building parts and for retail employees in merchandising. AR will also provide advances in safety.

Immersive experiences, such as those created by VR and MR, are changing how humans interface with machines and the digital world. Applications for VR are exploding. For example, companies are using Head-Mounted Displays (HMDs) for market research and in conferences to provide new experiences. VR is even being used to help people overcome phobias such as spiders or heights. Physicians use VR instead of cadavers to achieve better patient outcomes.

There will be huge investment in AI as a tool to manage labor. By September 2017, venture capital investment in AI had already reached $7.6 billion. Amazon, Facebook, Google and Microsoft are duking it out, given the stakes of a world that is already driven by algorithms. At a recent AI conference, some of the world’s leading experts on the topic predicted when machines (through AI) will have enough capability to replace human labor.

Five AI facts and predictions to note:

  1. Experts predict that machines will be able to win the World Series of Poker within three years and fully transcribe speech by 2026.
  2. Facebook’s AI responds to over 4 billion translation requests per day.
  3. Police departments are using AI to predict crime before it occurs.
  4. Large companies are already using AI in all types of applications. Uber and Starbucks, for example, are using AI to match labor with demand. Target is using AI to monitor video cameras so that it can better predict traffic flow and consumer behavior in its stores.
  5. AI is also being used to filter employee applications. For example, an algorithm can filter social media profiles of applicants to assess their suitability. Look for new tools to emerge that will allow small and midsize businesses (SMBs) to manage labor more efficiently.

Companies are finding unique ways to leverage their data. Deschutes Brewery, one of our clients, was recently featured in Fast Company for its use of AI in beer production. Alexa-compatible devices, including the Echo Dot (Alexa) and Amazon Fire TV, were the top-selling products from any manufacturer on Amazon over the Black Friday weekend, further evidence of AI’s reach. Microsoft is moving towards enterprise-level solutions, using machine learning to provide superior analytics. Microsoft has the advantage of bundling with MS Office apps.

Bots and chat bots are also exploding onto the scene, automating many functions from help on your computer screen to email marketing (yes, terribly annoying). Retailers are using bots to answer customer questions and guide them through the shopping process.

IoT is driving business analytics. According to Gartner, there are 8.4 billion “Things” on the internet, 30% more than last year. The combination of IoT with AI and other tools, notes Gartner, will “become the next major battleground in a wide range of software and service markets” and will run in the background of many apps. Big tech companies, such as IBM, SAP and Microsoft, are investing in IoT analytics.

Google, Facebook and Amazon are facing a “techlash” around the world, facing privacy issues, censorship and controversies ranging from political ads to protection of gun runners. In Germany, Facebook is facing scrutiny on how its data is used, and the government is imposing rules on removing hate speech on social networks within 24 hours. In China, President Xi Jinping is expected to tighten controls.

Google and Microsoft are positioned to make a dent in Amazon’s huge lead in cloud computing. According to Gartner, Amazon boasts $9.8 billion in cloud computing services, four times greater than the combined services of Google and Microsoft. Edge computing is viewed as the next frontier for driving computing capabilities.

E-commerce has reached a tipping point, projected to grow 20% in 2018. Amazon Prime is putting immense pressure on the industry to offer next-day shipping or even same-day shipping.

Wearables are expected to increase 40% per year through 2022. Trends are shifting towards embedding wearables into existing products. Levi’s is making fabrics that will swipe your phone. Companies are also creating experience-specific wearables, such as Carnival Cruise Line’s Medallion watch, which is capable of guiding Carnival guests to dinner and opening their rooms on the ship.

The U.S. is in the midst of a space race. In November 2018, the NASA InSight aircraft is scheduled to enter Mars airspace, deploy its parachutes, “fire retrorockets, jettison its heat shield and land.” Not to be outdone, SpaceX will send its first two private citizens to take a lap around the moon’s orbit. Elon Musk, Richard Branson and others have huge aspirations to send humans to the moon and Mars.

Drones will soon rule the skies. In 2018, drones will be subject to new rules from the FAA. Remote identifications — similar to a license plate system — will be used to identify drones and report on their location if they’re outside of human sight. Meanwhile, the military is finding applications for drones: Half of the U.S. Air Force fleet is drones and a big chunk of military spending has been shifted to drone technology.

Tesla will cross a milestone when it builds and sells 500,000 vehicles. At this point, the company will be responsible for producing 10% of the world’s 5.2 million electric cars. The U.S. government is reevaluating its emissions policy in the wake of new rules in Europe that escalate auto-emission standards. Tesla’s Model 3 represents true technology disruption as it is scalable and affordable to the masses. The true barrier to electric vehicles is charging stations, which are exploding in some states such as California.

Cryptocurrencies are recognized as legitimate currency. If you don’t understand bitcoin, you are not alone. Its recent rise corresponds with its listing on the futures market, which allows investors to hedge their bets. The promise of cryptocurrencies is just coming into focus. They’re attractive to third-world countries that may not have a central bank or intermediary to govern transactions, as well as merchants looking to avoid costly credit card fees.

Block chain is becoming more prevalent. Cryptocurrency’s cousin is block chain, “a tokenized ledger” that allows “trusted parties to exchange commercial transactions.” Gartner reports that block chain is the second-highest searched term on its website, up 4x this year alone. Block chain is becoming more prevalent in the financial sector. Using cryptography to secure digital ledger transaction, the technology will provide capabilities for real-time information sharing.

Cybersecurity is big business. It seems that hackers are moving faster than security firms trying to close gaps in their networks and systems. There are 285,000 cybersecurity job openings alone. With the proliferation of IoT, cyber interference will soon extend into the home. A wave of cyberattacks against infrastructure (such as utilities) and other high-value, vulnerable targets is likely.

Looking past 2018, the next dynamic technology will be 5th generation mobile (5G), which is expected to link millions of devices and provide processing speeds that will allow for the downloading of a movie in a second. Data-rich industries such as health care will be the technology’s primary beneficiaries. Deployment of 5G is expected in 2020-2021.

Fasten your seatbelts: The rate of change continues to drive disruption in technology. 2018 is going to be an interesting year.

Related reading:
Part 1 — Political trends affecting business in 2018 and beyond
Part 2 — Economic trends affecting business in 2018 and beyond



Digital in 2017: Global Overview, We Are Social
A Manager’s Guide to Augmented Reality, Harvard Business Review (November 2017)
Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2018, Gartner
Back to Virtual Reality, B2B International
Virtual reality: Good for the body and the mind, Quantumrun
Giant Advantage, The Economist (December 9, 2017)
Artificial Intelligence- With Very Real Biases, The Wall Street Journal
Amazon Sold Millions of Alexa Devices over the Holiday Shopping Weekend, TechCrunch
The Top 10 Trends for Digital Transformation in 2018, Forbes
The Year Ahead 2018, Bloomberg Businessweek
Here’s How Microsoft and Google are Trying to Catch Amazon in the Cloud, Bloomberg Businessweek (November 13, 2017)
The Kiplinger Letter (November 17, 2017)
Innovation Agents, Fast Company (November 2017)
Reaching for the Stars, The Economist
Blue Sky Thinking, The Economist
9 Amazing Military Technologies of the Future, Kiplinger
The Kiplinger Letter: November 22, 2017
The Kiplinger Letter: November 17, 2017
5G: Digging Deep to Find the Future of Mobile, Bloomberg Businessweek[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]